The assurance of introducing 24 to 32 seater buses that are capable of negotiating Kochi’s narrow roads and having wider doors to enable easy boarding and disembarking came within a month of the launch of around 100 circular bus services in Thiruvananthapuram in November 2021.
A senior KSRTC official said talks are still under way on reintroducing low-floor city bus services in Kochi. He attributed the delay to, among other reasons, the agency being unable to procure adequate number of new electric buses to replace the fleet of low-floor circular-service buses operating in Thiruvananthapuram. “As per tentative plan, these low-floor buses were to be introduced in Kochi. A decision on this and finalizing of their routes is long awaited,” he said.
Kochi needs a fleet of shuttle-service buses rather than circular services, since key establishments like the High Court, Collectorate and Infopark are located in different areas, unlike in Thiruvananthapuram where they can be networked by circular services, said Biju Prabhakar, CMD of the agency. “The impact of the expected entry of (select) private buses from the Goshree Islands into the city too ought to be studied. In addition, bus routes ought to be mapped and a passenger information system readied,” he said.
Expressing dismay at the over 15-year delay in permitting the city entry of buses from the isles, Senior Deputy Transport Commissioner (retd.) BJ Antony said the KMTA must exercise its wide-ranging powers to issue an additional notification, since the nationalization notification issued by the State government has been hampering the entry of private buses beyond High Court Junction. “The KSRTC does not operate adequate number of buses in the corridor, although it is not bound by such restrictions.”
The agency must also bring about a digital system to manage its bus fleet, simultaneous with reintroducing city buses in Kochi. This is important to ensure optimal fleet efficiency, by helping passengers and depot staff keep track of their location. By doing so, it will be in a position to cater to demand from intra-city commuters and even those from passenger-dense suburban towns like Fort Kochi and Muvattupuzha, he added.
Critics have been referring to the low patronage of the handful of KSRTC’s city buses and the feeder buses of bypass rider services to the disconnect with passengers due to delay in ushering in digital management. The agency is also facing acute paucity of bus crew, following which even many existing services are not being operated, defeating the cause of public transport.